Central banks are watching. Let’s watch them back.

Photo Credit: Getty

One of the biggest dangers of a central bank digital currency (CBDC), I and others have warned, is that it would give a government that issues the CBDC the power to monitor the transactions of those citizens using the state-backed digital currency.

As former CEI research associate Ari Patinkin and I recently wrote in Real Clear Markets: “Unlike paper or a private decentralized digital currency, a CBDC leaves an electronic trail of purchases and sales within a government digital ledger. Ledgers of such information are in the hands of governments that in many cases have a dark history of abuses of civil liberties.”

So it only makes sense that if governments are taking steps to create a CBDC to monitor individuals, privacy advocates would monitor governments considering these schemes. And that’s exactly what the Human Rights Foundation – working with Nicholas Anthony of the Cato Institute – has just begun to do.

The HRF’s just-launched Central Bank Digital Currency Tracker profiles each country taking steps toward a CBDC, and links these moves on a web page with information on that country’s record on human rights and corruption. For instance, the page on Nigeria, which has set up the eNaira CBDC, notes that the country “earned a 43 out of 100 in Freedom House’s 2023 Freedom in the World report,” and that “corruption and oppression are key concerns  for the country.”

In compiling the tracker, HRF found that “dictatorships are leading the charge in CBDC deployment.” HRF estimates that 3.7 billion people – 46% of the world population – live under dictatorships experimenting with CBDCs.

One thing the HRF could add to its Tracker is the growing opposition to CBDCs among the general public in many countries. As Patinkin and I wrote in Real Clear Markets: “Everywhere around the world, powerful heads of central banks and politicians are pushing central bank digital currency. Yet also around the globe – from the U.S. to Europe to Africa – more and more of the general populace are rejecting CBDCs as they learn what they would entail and experience them in practice.”

So let’s continue to track the CBDCs being built to track citizens’ monetary transactions and highlight the heroic opposition to CBDCs that is rising up in country after country.